Hurricane Patricia weakens as it hits western Mexico
Published 24/10/2015 | 09:34
Hurricane Patricia has weakened from its record-breaking strength as it hit western Mexico but it still dumped torrential rains that authorities warned could cause deadly floods and mudslides.
Patricia, which peaked as the strongest hurricane on record in the western hemisphere, made landfall on Friday in a sparsely-populated stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast as a category five hurricane, avoiding direct hits on the resort city of Puerto Vallarta and major port city of Manzanillo.
There were early reports of some flooding and landslides but no word of fatalities or major damage as the storm moved over inland mountains.
Television news reports from the coast showed toppled trees and lampposts, and inundated streets. Some highways were blocked by mudslides. Milenio TV carried footage of cars and buses being swept by floodwaters in the state of Jalisco.
"The first reports confirm that the damage has been less than those expected from a hurricane of this magnitude," President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a taped address late on Friday. He added, however, that "we cannot yet let our guard down".
Patricia weakened to a category two hurricane early on Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 100mph and was expected to dissipate over Mexico's inland mountains, becoming a tropical storm later in the day. Its centre was about 135 miles south-west of Zacatecas.
Tourist Brandie Galle, of Grants Pass, Oregon said she had been sheltered with other guests in a ballroom with boarded-up windows at the Hard Rock Hotel in Puerto Vallarta.
When the city was not feeling any major effects from the storm two hours after landfall, workers let them out to eat at a hotel restaurant.
Ms Galle said some guests desperate to leave had earlier paid 400 US dollars (£261) for taxis to drive them 120 miles to the inland city of Guadalajara.
The airports in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Tepic were closed on Friday and residents and tourists had hunkered down in shelters and homes along a coastal stretch dotted with sleepy fishing villages and gleaming resorts.
In Puerto Vallarta, residents had reinforced homes with sandbags and shop windows with boards and tape, and hotels rolled up beachfront restaurants.
Patricia formed suddenly on Tuesday as a tropical storm and quickly strengthened to a hurricane. Within 30 hours it had zoomed to a category five storm, catching many off guard with its rapid growth.
By Friday it was the most powerful recorded hurricane to hit the hemisphere, with a central pressure of 880 millibars and maximum sustained winds of 200mph, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
Patricia's power while still out at sea was comparable to that of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 dead or missing in the Philippines two years ago, according to the UN's World Meteorological Organisation.
Mexican officials declared a state of emergency in dozens of municipalities in Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco states, and schools were closed. Many residents bought supplies ahead of Patricia's arrival.
Authorities opened hundreds of shelters and announced plans to shut off electricity as a safety precaution.
Patricia also threatens Texas, with forecasters saying that even after the storm breaks up its tropical moisture will likely feed heavy rains already soaking the state.